Life Inside the American Semi

You see them on every major roadway. They fill up rest areas and empty out the truck stop coffee pots. You most definitely know they’re all around you, but have you ever really looked into what their lifestyles entail? 

The majority of people see truck-drivers as someone who just drives a lot. What happens inside the cab in a secret to most. So here’s what you should know about the average truck driver’s lifestyle.

This is what their home looks like

(these are pictures I took of ours).

(I know my tiny garden takes up quite a bit of room, but it makes me so happy that I am willing to sacrifice that space for it.)

And here is what others’ trucks look like.

Personally, I was extremely disappointed with this article. It showed many filthy trucks, and I know so many drivers who take so much more pride in their homes than that. I’m also very disappointed that it is the only website I could find to showcase trucks actually being lived in, instead of empty trucks fresh from the factory.

What’s inside? 

– a Qualcomm (device for communication w/ shippers)

– 1 or 2 XL twin beds

an inverter & converter (basically power/electrical outlets)

a miniature refrigerator

a small pantry

a hideaway bookshelf

1 or 2 closets

1 or 2 solid tables

– 1 or 2 slide out tables

heat/AC systems

– some have shelves or cabinets

– some have television

– some have satellite cable

– some have a generator so the truck idles less


That’s a relatively standard truck. Many drivers choose to add:

– a microwave

– a single burner range

– a slow cooker

– a coffee maker

– a toaster

– a hair dryer

– a mirror (ours is in our closet door)

– a vacuum cleaner

– a GPS

– a CB radio to communicate with other truckers within a 2 mile radius

**The bolded items are ones we have**

Keep all these items in mind and realize that the living space is between 70 and 90 square feet (Truckers love to joke about the Tiny House Movement and it’s 300 square foot homes). 

Sometimes one person occupies this space; In our situation, it’s two people and a medium sized dog.

So how do we make 70 square feet work?

Established boundaries, and lots of communication! If I’m cooking, either with the slow cooker or single burner range, I have to sit on the edge of Devin’s bed. While I’m busy, Devin sits in his driver’s seat, or he lays in his bed. If one of us is changing clothes, the other must stay in bed, or sit in a chair up front. There isn’t room for us to both be in the center of the cab at once. We each have our own ‘spot’. Mine is my top bunk. Devin doesn’t come up there. His spot is the Driver’s seat. I don’t change his seat or steering wheel settings, and I don’t put excess clothes or ‘junk’ there. Semis don’t have sinks, and they don’t have a lot of storage (especially when two people and all their clothes are involved). That means that you have reusable items. We each have a plate, a bowl, a fork, a spoon, a steak knife, and a mug. That’s it. We have to wipe them out with sanitary wipes after every meal, otherwise we won’t have utensils to eat with later.

When I cook, I try to stick to recipes that use basic ingredients, and don’t require an oven or a microwave. It does take a little getting used to, but it’s something you can figure out a system to, relatively quickly. To keep up with what’s cooking, check out my hashtag #PeterbiltKitchen . Here are a few simple meals I’ve made so far.

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Notice how I’ve used the exact same plate and bowl?

So how does day to day life work?

Here’s the typical schedule for us. We wake up and change into day clothes (individually, because we don’t have the space to do this at once). We make our beds, and I throw our ‘dog blanket’ over Devin’s bed, to protect it from ‘Blair hair’. One of us takes our dog, Blair outside for a walk, then we go into the truck stop or rest area for the restroom. Sometimes we buy breakfast, if not Devin starts driving and I sit on the edge of his bed and make breakfast using a teflon pan and the range burner, or the slow cooker. I serve breakfast on our two plates or bowls, we eat, then I wipe them clean & put them away. Devin drives for six or seven hours before we’re required by law to take a thirty minute break.

During these hours, we talk, a lot. Remarkably, we have yet to run out of words to say too. It’s just an endless conversation with my best friend, and it’s something I can’t believe we’ve been missing out on until now.

When our break comes up, we walk Blair together and check out the local area. We also go to the restroom again. I usually start cooking right after this. We then drive until our ‘clock runs out’. That means that we’ve been driving, loading, or unloading for up to 14 hours a day. We then park, take Blair for a walk, and go in the truck stop.


We try to shower every other day. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes its less. Showers are typically $10-$11 each. You get one free shower for every 50 gallons of diesel you buy, or you can get free showers for a month when you buy more than 500 gallons within that month. Here’s what a truck stop shower looks like.


Showers include your soap, towels, and unlimited time/water for you to use. Between each user, someone launders the dirty towels and basically power washes the restroom with cleaner. They’re always so clean that even I feel confident enough to not use flip flops.


The Loading and Unloading Process

Unloading/loading consists of backing into a dock, exchanging/filling out paperwork, and then having a crane load your flatbed, or forklift operators drive pallets into your box trailer (these are called dry vans). Sometimes instead of waiting up to two hours to be loaded, you can drop your trailer in the yard and pick up another that is preloaded. This is much more efficient, and definitely preferred.


Many drivers get paid by the mile (for example, $0.45 per mile), so it’s obviously better to driving than sitting. Other drivers (typically owner operators) have the option to get paid a percentage of the load’s worth. This is usually between 25% and 32% of the load’s total worth. Drivers paid cents per mile (cpm) prefer long drives and few unload/reloads. Drivers paid percentage prefer to get lots of loads in very quickly.

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What are weigh stations? 

Weigh stations are where semi’s exit the interstate to be frequently weighed and inspected. The Department of Transportation (DOT) handles these. Semis and their trailers are not to exceed 80,000 lbs in total. Going over on weight is a massive penalty.


Have you ever seen trucks drive right by the weigh stations without stopping? They aren’t truck drivers gone rogue.
The roads you drive on have scales in them. This means that everyone is being weighed while going down the road. Semis have a chip in them that can act as a pass. If the weight of that individual semi appears to be under the limit, they are usually given a ‘pass’ to avoid the station. Happy short ‘beeps’ tell the driver that he is free to bypass the station. If the driver does not have the chip, or the station is wanting to inspect the truck, he hears a ‘ding’. This means he must pull in to be weighed, and possibly have his truck inspected.

What does it take to become a truck driver?

Many believe that just anyone can be a professional driver. Here are the standard requirements:

– must be at least 21 years old or older

– cannot have a violent type felony

– must not have been in any ‘your fault’ auto accidents

– cannot have ever been reported in driving under the influence.

– must be able to pass a physical

– must be able pass all random drug tests, usually every four to ten months

– must obtain a CDL A License

To obtain a CDL A, you need to take a written test, a driving test, and an inspection test (identify the parts of the truck, their purposes, and troubleshooting). Most people attend truck driving school, which can cost up to $10,000. Each attempt at getting your CDL A costs you $125 in Indiana. A CDL A license is the highest automotive license you can get. It allows you to drive almost anything. CDL B limits you to personal vehicles, school buses, dump trucks, and a few others. 


How often do drivers go home? 

Local Drivers (they’re called Dedicated Drivers) run the same route every day. They go home every night.

Regional Drivers cover an area that is usually within a 600 mile radius. They get to go home every weekend.

Over the Road (OTR) Drivers can go from coast to coast, sometimes into Canada or Mexico, and they come home every few weeks or once every month or two. Usually, for every week they’re gone, they get a day off. They can save these days up (within reason) to have decent vacations.


What have I learned from this experience?

First, I’ve broadened my range of states I’ve seen from 5 to 35 (and counting!). Although I haven’t visited much of the East Coast, I have learned to appreciate the United States and the people who make it.

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Second, I felt very ashamed of myself for thinking truckers are ‘dirty’. Most shower several times a week, pick up after themselves, and workout every chance they get. They’re also friendly and courteous. They open doors for you, say please and thank you, and they stick up for one another. Many attend ‘Trucker Church’ every Sunday morning in the truck stop lounge at 9am. Just on Thanksgiving Day we had a fellow driver knock on our door to see if we wanted to share his Banana Cream Pie with him. When we stop at a truck stop restaurant, it’s not uncommon for other drivers to come sit with us and make great conversation. Drivers are excellent listeners, great story tellers, they’re clean, and they’re good people.


Third, I’ve learned how to deal with small spaces, MAJOR downsizing of my stuff, and being a better communicator. I’ve learned to better appreciate my husband for who he is, because we spend about 14 hours a day talking. We still learn new things about each other and our childhoods, daily.

Fourth, I’ve learned a lot about my dog. The majority of my life I’ve had outside farm dogs. I didn’t have an inside dog until about four years ago, and even then, it was my sister’s responsibility. I paid the dog attention when I wanted to, and the rest of the time she roamed the house or our property. I did not pay attention to her every bowl movement. I did not hear her lap up every drop of water. I did not hear her every chew bite of kibble. I did not walk her every step that she took. I am with my dog about 23 hours a day, and though I love him very much, he gets on my nerves more than I thought possible. He is well mannered, he has common sense, he is house broke, and I can trust him to not destroy things when I leave him in the truck. I can’t imagine my life without my Blair. However, being with a dog almost 24/7 has been very different and very eye opening for me.


As a final point, I believe I’m a better person because of this. I’ve learned to not get so angry so quick. I’ve learned to forgive at an alarmingly fast rate. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to appreciate all the small things in life. And I’ve learned to be a better thinker and a better writer because of it. I am thankful for this experience, and I am thankful for my husband who is a truck driver. We’re uncertain how long it will be before we find our dream property to purchase, but until then, we’re enjoying the ride together.



That’s all for me! Have you any experiences with truck driving or small spaces? Do you have any advice? If you enjoyed this article, please don’t be afraid to share it on the social media platform of your choosing. As always, thank you for your continued attention and support! 

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